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Raysn: The Music of Jewish Belarus

by Litvakus

Chashnik 02:30
Hey Antoshe 03:13
Hey, hey, hey, hey! Hey Antoshe, tu a zung. Tu a klung af der bandure Shure, bure, mure, ture. Ot azey, hey, hey! S’iz geven der krever Dukes Vays vi shney, vays vi shney, Hot er kinderlekh in palats, Tekhter tsvey, tekhter tsvey. Nor bam Dukes ba di ferd Hot gedint Dmitruk Skarulya Mitn nomen Shalopay… Hey, hey, hey, hey, Hey, Antoshe, tu a zung, Tu a klung af der bandure, Shure-bure-mure-ture! Ot azey, hey, hey, ot azey, hey, hey. S’iz gekumen vesne-tsayt, Brengt der boym di naye tsvayglakh. Brengt di shval dos shvebele, Un di tsoyg – di tsaygele, Un di ku – dos kelbele… Muuu… S’iz gekumen vesne-tsayt, Far di tekhterlekh di tsvey, Brengen zey aheym tsum Dukes, Inem fartekh tsu baystrukes… Vey, vey, vey, vey… Ot azey, hey, hey, ot azey, hey, hey. Khapt der Dukes zikh tsum shverd Heyst der Dukes shpanen ferd, Un fun Kreve biz Mazhir, Un fun Zhetl biz Damir Yogn rayter un karetn, Leyfn lafer un shtafetn… S’iz in ergets nit geven, Nit tsu zen Dem rotseyakh Shalopay… Hey, hey… In di velder fun Krivitsh Voynt der gazlen Shalopay, Un der elter krever Dukes, Vays vi shney, Vays vi shney, Fort aleyn iber di pleynen, In dem riterlekhn prakht. Un er klingt mit di kley-zayen In der nakht, in der nakht… Hey, hey… Ot azey, hey, hey, ot azey hey, hey... Hey, hey, hey, Hey, Antoshe, sing to us, play to us On the bandura, Ture-bure-shure-mure That’s the way, hey, hey! There was a nobleman Dukes [‘doo-kes] of the Krevers, As white as snow, He had children in his palace, Two daughters, two daughters. But in Dukes’s stable Served a guy, Dmitruk Skarulya, By the nickname Shalopay*. The beautiful springtime came. The tree brings new twigs, The swallow brings a yellow-beaked nestling, The dog brings home her puppies, And the cow brings a calf. The beautiful springtime came, For the daughters, two of them, So they’re bringing home to Dukes In the apron A couple bastards. Woe, woe, woe, woe! The Dukes grabs his sharp sword, And he orders to harness horses. And from Krivia till Mazyr, And from Dziatlava till Damir, Hasting are the knights and carriages, And the messengers are running. No one has seen anywhere That bastard Shalopay. In the woods of Krivich There lives the bastard Shalopay. And the elderly Dukes of the Krevers, With his hair white as snow, Is riding alone over the valleys, All dressed up in his knightly hauberk, And he’s clinking with his weapon In the night, in the night. Hey, hey… That’s the way, hey, hey! ___ *Shalopay — Scapegrace
Retale Suite 03:59
Bats’ka, bats’ka, bats’ka, bats’ka, Vybuduy ty nam nashu khatku Vykupi ty nam nashu matku. Byaz khatki nya budzem, Byaz matki zabludzim. Auromulyu, Auromulyu, Starushak ty nash. Chamu zha vy nya khodzitsie? Chamu zha vy nya prositsie? Chamu zha vy nya molitsiesia Bohu za nas? Kab zha nas asvabadzili, Da iz Golas vyvadzili, Leyartseynu pravadzili, Leyartseynu… Entfert men im fun eybn: Nya plach, synok, synok, synok, Nya kroy svayo sertsa, sertsa, Budzie khatka vystrayena, Budzie matka vykupliena. Chakay kantsa, veynemar lefonav Shiro khadasho, halleluyo. Hallelu, hallelu, halleluyo. Father, Father, Father, Father, Rebuild our house for us, Redeem our mother for us. We will not be (exist) without the house, We will go astray without our mother. Abraham dear, oh Abraham, You are our grandpa. Why aren’t you going around? Why aren’t you reaching out? Why aren’t you praying to God for us? So that we would be set free, So that we would get our of exile, So that someone would take us to our land, Our land. They answer him from high above: Don’t cry, son, son, son, Don’t tear your heart, The house will be rebuilt, The mother will be redeemed. Wait for the end, and you shall sing in His presence A new song. Hallelujah! Praise, praise, praise the Lord (Hallelujah!)
Na prywkrasnym myes’tsye karchomka stayala da nova Ay vai kdzu-kdzu koy-kirym-bom-bom, Karchomka staya... A w toy karchomtsy Khayka maladaya zhydowka, Ay vai kdzu-kdzu koy-kirym-bom-bom, Khayka malada... Khayka maladaya vodkay shynkavala harelkay Ay vai kdzu-kdzu koy-kirym-bom-bom, Vodkay shynkava... A w toy karchomtsy dva saldaty pili da pili Ay vai kdzu-kdzu koy-kirym-bom-bom, Dva saldaty pi... Dva saldaty pili, usyo Khayku manili zhydowku, Ay vai kdzu-kdzu koy-kirym-bom-bom, Dva saldaty pi... A w subotu rana usye zhydy w shkole dy shkole, Ay vai kdzu-kdzu koy-kirym-bom-bom, Use zhydy w shko... Use zhydy w shkole, tol’ki Khayka doma zhydowka, Ay vai kdzu-kdzu koy-kirym-bom-bom, Tol’ki Khayka do... A w nyadzelyu rana pryyshli try padvody pa Khayku, Ay vai kdzu-kdzu koy-kirym-bom-bom, Pryishli try padvo... U pershay padvodze – padushki-pyaryny, pyaryny, Ay vai kdzu-kdzu koy-kirym-bom-bom, Padushki-pyary... U druhoy padvodze – syrabro i zlota, i zlota, Ay vai kdzu-kdzu koy-kirym-bom-bom, Syrabro i zlo(ta) U tretsyu padvodu sama Khayka sela zhydowka, Ay vai kdzu-kdzu koy-kirym-bom-bom, Sama Khayka se... Sama Khayka sela, pesen’ku zapela vyasyolu, Ay vai kdzu-kdzu koy-kirym-bom-bom, Pesen’ku zape... Na prywkrasnym mes’tsye karchomka stayala da nova Ay vai kdzu-kdzu koy-kirym-bom-bom, Karchomka staya... 1. In a beautiful place, there stood a tavern, Ay vai kdzu-kdzu koy-kirym-bom-bom, there was a tav… 2. In that tavern there was Khayka, a young Jewish girl… 3. Young Khayka was selling vodka, the brandy… 4. And in that tavern two soldiers were drinking… 5. Two soldiers were drinking and were calling Khayka the Jewish girl… 6. Saturday morning all Jews are in the synagogue (“school”)… 7. All Jews are in the synagogue, only Khayka is at home, the Jewish girl… 8. Sunday morning there arrived three wagons for Khayka… 9. In the first wagon there were pillows and featherbeds… 10. In the second wagon there was silver and gold… 11. In the third wagon Khayka sat there alone, the Jewish girl… 12. Khayka sat there alone and started singing a song, a merry one… 13. In a beautiful place, there stood a tavern…
Zayt Gezunt 03:11
Blaybt unz gezunt, lebt zhe raykh on a breg Mir forn aheyn in a vayt-vaytn veg. In veldl dem grinem veln mir shlofn un esn Ekh, ayere laskes keynmol nit fargesn. Lebn ayer mayontek s’iz a feld un a tol, Zol blien dos raykhtum ba’ aykh a tsol. Zoln vasern flisn in ayere taykhn, Un gendz’lekh zoln gebn aykh feder a vaykhn. Der korn ongegosener vaksn zol hoykh Un shmalts af tsu shmirn zolt hobn ir oykh. In a fesl kapuste zoln grivenes flisn A shnepsl dertsu shtendik hot ontsugisn. Un nokh zolt ir hobn dokh gvires in shtibl. Nit sakh un nit veynik, nor yerlekh a kindl. S’vet aykh nit arn a bisele merer, Az Got vet aykh shikn, dokh kinder a tsveyer. Dem veg tsu aykh kenen mir gut, libe srorem, Un kumen in gest veln mir oft, kin eyn hore. Ver af di tnoim, un ver af a khupe, Me’t firn tsu aykh frishe khales a kupe. Tak buttsie zdarovy, zhyvitsie bahata, A my wzho payedziem dadomu, dakhaty. To zayt unz gezunt, lebt zhe raykh on a breg, Un mir forn aheym in a vayt-vaytn veg. Be well, live wealthy without limits, And we are going to our far away home. In a green forest we’ll sleep and eat, And we’ll not forget your kindness. You have a field and a valley near your estate. Let your riches grow without limits. Let the waters flow in your rivers, Let the geese give you soft feather. Let the plump grain raise high, May you always have chicken fat to smear on bread. Let cracklings float in your barrel of sauerkraut, May you always have whiskey to fill your glasses. Let the wealth never leave your house: Not much and not little, but a child every year. It won’t even hurt you to have a little more, God’s willing, two of them. We know the way to your place well, dear lords, And, may no one cast an evil eye, we’ll come to visit you often. Some for engagement, and some to the wedding. We’ll bring to you a bunch of fresh challahs. Stay well, live rich, And we are going home now. Be well, live wealthy without limits, And we are going to our far away home.


"An extremely welcome arrival on the Jewish music scene" - Songlines
"Invigorating... Appealingly exotic"— The Jewish Week
"Enormously entertaining"— Jewcy.com
"A recording of unadorned beauty.”— Klezmershack.com

The Litvakus’ 2014 album RAYSN (read as rye-sn), the Music of Jewish Belarus, reveals the unknown face of Jewish and klezmer music and a different, Litvish, Yiddish. It tells a powerful story about the country where the Jews and the Litwins (the Belarusians’ pre-colonial ethnonym) had coexisted together for more than seven centuries and created an inimitable culture, separately and together. Litvakus’ new album RAYSN presents the rarely heard music from the two seriously endangered cultures, Yiddish/ Litvak and Belarusian.

As far as the klezmer recordings go, RAYSN sounds are very unexpected. It does take by surprise, but it also overpowers you by the warmth of the deeply rooted tradition. Bagpipe-like drones, drones on the fiddle and bass, shtetl disco feel, authentic and vibrant, come to life as this music had existed before being washed away by urbanization, Soviet and Nazi genocide, the decimation of the non-majority culture, emigration, assimilation, and a slew of other atrocities. Seven centuries of existence preserve this music its rightful place in the future, and Litvakus gives it a voice.

The album’s cover art is beautifully designed by Ilusha Tsinadze and illustrated with a rustic landscape, a 2006 painting by the prominent artist Boris Zaborov, the only living artist whose paintings were bought by the Uffizi Gallery.

Thank you for your support: 

Center for Traditional Music and Dance and personally Peter Rushefsky and Ethel Raim 

The National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene and personally Zalmen Mlotek and Bryna Wasserman

The Workmen’s Circle / Der Arbeter Ring and personally Ann Toback

Synagogue for the Arts, New York

Zack Buchman, for helping us make the promotional video

Prof. Paul Geluso of New York University

Nina Rogov, in memory of her husband, actor David Rogow

Boris Zaborov, for donating the right to use his artwork

Irina Zaborov

Jeff Newelt 

Cantor Jessica F. Epstein

Yury Zisser

...and many others who have supported the creation of this album through their generous donations, spreading the word, and all those little things without which this album would have less chances to become a reality.

This album is partially funded by the Council of Jewish Émigré Community Organizations in New York (COJECO). The BluePrint Fellowship Project of COJECO is made possible through a grant by the UJA-Federation of New York and Genesis Philanthropy Group.


released October 29, 2014

Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch, artistic direction, vocals, C and Bb clarinets, bass-clarinet, svirel, dudka.
Joshua Camp, accordion, additional vocals
Craig Judelman, violin, viola, additional vocals
Taylor Bergren-Chrisman, bass, additional vocals.
Sam Weisenberg, poyk (drum), additional vocals.

Record producers: Alex Ryaboy, Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch

Recorded at James L. Dolan Music Recording Studio, New York University

Sound engineer: Alex Ryaboy

Mastering: Don Godwin

Photography: Anya Roz / WhiteCrow Pictures © 2014

Cover art: Boris Zaborov Landscape (2006). Acrylic, canvas, 114x146 cm, from the Brinkmann & Seltser private collection, Israel

Graphic design and layout: Ilusha Tsinadze

Liner notes and lyric translations: Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch © 2014


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Litvakus Brooklyn, New York

Renowned Eastern European clarinetist, pianist, and composer Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch presents a uniquely thrilling klezmer experience with his new quintet Litvakus, which brings to soaring life the often overlooked Belarusian and Litvak (Belarusian-Lithuanian) Jewish musical heritage. Litvakus is reaching out to the modern audiences worldwide, making the old sound new and fresh, meaningful and hip ... more

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